What do Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano all have in common? If you said Sangiovese, you hit the nail on the head. Although less recognized than Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, Sangiovese is actually one of the world’s most cultivated and highly prized grapes.
Get to know the ins and outs Italy’s most widely planted red variety through our Sangiovese explainer, here.
Sangiovese is one of the most important varieties in global viticulture. The grape is synonymous with central Italy (specifically Tuscany), though it’s beginning to find roots in California, Australia, and beyond. Sangiovese plantings in Europe date to ancient times, and at least fourteen clones of the variety exist today. Sangiovese gets its name (‘blood of Jove’) from the Roman god Jupiter, and recent DNA profilings show that the grape is a cross between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo, meaning that Sangiovese is actually half Tuscan and half southern Italian. Due to its numerous clones and cultivation sites, Sangiovese goes by over 50 names worldwide. Some of the more common references/clones include Sangiovese Grosso, Prugnolo Gentile, Brunelletto, Grosseto, Morellone, Pignolo, and Uva Tosca.
On the Vine / In the Cellar
In the vineyard, Sangiovese is able to adapt to a variety of soil types, however, the grape particularly thrives in rocky schist-clay soils (galestro in Brunello) or clay-limestone (alberese in Chianti Classico) soils. Sangiovese’s growing season is rather long, as buds tend to break early and ripen slowly throughout the season. Sangiovese harvests generally take place in October, though as temperatures continue to rise worldwide, these dates are continuing to push back. Sangiovese grapes have naturally high acidity and moderate levels of tannins, both of which translate to its final wines.
In the cellar, Sangiovese is frequently blended with other red varieties, including Canaiolo, Colorino, and Mammolo. On the western coast of Tuscany, Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) are vinified with Sangiovese to create the region’s powerhouse Super Tuscan blends. Most Sangiovese-based wines undergo relatively long maceration/fermentation times, followed by aging in oak barrels. These techniques help to extract color, tannins, and phenols from the fruit, as well as integrate all of these components together.
Sangiovese-based wines are known for their high acid and moderate to high levels of tannins, though their color remains rather light (depending on the percentage of Sangiovese present in the wine). Sangiovese is generally marked by flavors of cherry, fresh cut herbs, tomato leaf, and baking spice. When blended with other varieties, Sangiovese-based wines tend to take on a heavier, more fruit-forward note.
Whether blended or varietal, most Sangiovese is consumed in its youth. However, well-made Sangiovese bottles from top growing regions/producers are able to withstand the test of time in the cellar. Wines from Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano have been known to age for decades when stored properly. New World Sangiovese is relatively new to the game, so most are consumed in their youth. However, laying these bottles down and revisiting them a few years down the line is almost certain to not disappoint.
Key Growing Regions
Tuscany is undeniably Sangiovese’s proper home. Chianti Classico, Rosso di Montalcino, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino are considered Mecca for this high-acid grape, however, it is also cultivated in the central Italian regions of Umbria and Lazio, as well as Emilia-Romagna, Abruzzo, and Marche. Sangiovese is almost always vinified dry, though sweet passito style wines (including Vin Santo) are also made from the variety. Fun fact: Sangiovese is the most widely planted red grape variety in all of Italy — almost 10% of Italian vineyards are dedicated to this noble grape!
Outside of Italy, Sangiovese is beginning to find roots in Mendoza (Argentina), California (notably Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara County), and Australia. Plantings can also be found in Washington State, South Africa, and New Zealand, albeit in small quantities. Sangiovese and other ‘heat-tolerant’ Italian varieties are particularly on the rise in Australia, as these grapes thrive in the country’s warmer weather temperatures.
On the Table
Sangiovese’s high acid, moderate tannins, and overall fruit-forward nature make it extremely food-friendly on the table. These wines pair beautifully with an array of proteins (chicken, red meats, game), as well as countless vegetables, herbs, and spices — think basil, sage, oregano, and more. Sangiovese-based wines are perfect for pairing with an array of sauces and seasonings, though there’s something extra special about popping a bottle with traditional Sunday Supper favorites. For classic Italian-inspired dinners at home, pop a bottle of Sangiovese to really add an authentic Tuscan flare to your meal!
Producers to Know
For a deeper dive into the world of Sangiovese, check out the Sangiovese-based wines crafted at the hands of these epics producers:
-Montevertine (Radda, Chianti)
– Cigliano di Sopra (San Casciano Val di Pesa, Chianti)
-I Fabbri (Greve, Chianti)
-Le Masse (San Donato, Chianti)
– Reeve Wines (Sonoma, California)
– Soldera (Montalcino)
– Fontodi (Panzano, Chianti_
– Castell’in Villa (Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti)
– Le Chiuse (Montalcino)
– Canalicchio di Sopra – (Montalcino)
– Stella di Campalto – (Montalcino)
– Pian dell’Orino – (Montalcino)
– Badia Coltibuono – (Gaiole, Chianti)
– Salcheto – (Vino Nobile, Tuscany)
– Il Conventino – (Vino Nobile, Tuscany)
– Podere le Boncie – (Castelnuovo Berardenga, Chianti)
– Istine – (Radda, Chianti)
– Valle delle Corti – (Radda, Chianti)